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How I Learned To Run My Husband's Business After He Died

For years, Mary Celeste Beall, 42, played a supporting role at Blackberry Farm, the legendary resort in Tennessee that her husband, Sam Beall, ran. When he died suddenly in 2016, the mother of five had to learn to run it herself— while shouldering the burden of devastating grief.

Sheila Marikar

My in-laws bought Blackberry Farm in 1976. Back then, it was a super-small team. My mother-in-law cooked and rode a riding lawnmower with her son, Sam—my future husband. Sam and I started dating in high school. When he got into the California Culinary Academy, we moved to California. But he was always so excited to make a home on the farm. We returned to Tennessee in 2001, when Sam took over from his parents, and built our home on the farm in 2007.

For years, my role was supporting Sam. He’d be at the Barn—the restaurant— until 2 a.m. I’d get up with the kids and get them ready for school (though he’d somehow drag himself out of bed to see them off most days). I have a master’s in accounting, but I consulted on our retail stores and interior design. Blackberry Farm was our life. It’s not like Sam worked somewhere else, left each morning, and didn’t come home until the evening. Sam dreamed about it being a family business forever.

The day Sam passed away started off as a normal day. At 4:45 a.m., he left for a skiing trip in Colorado. We kissed goodbye.

I will remember that kiss for the rest of my life.

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July - August 2019